Fourth Leg of the Donor Pyramid

by Jason Dick

As I mentioned in my previous article, The Seven Deadly Sins, I had a great discussion with Sarah Hoddinott from Advanced Solutions International ( and Shane Davis from Artez Interactive ( They opened my eyes up to a lot of new ideas and thoughts about online fundraising.

We were talking about how fundraising is changing because of online fundraising tools and Sarah mentioned, “We are no longer working with the donor pyramid. When you look at the traditional ways of fundraising peer-to-peer fundraising is almost like the fourth leg of the new fundraising stool.” Traditionally the fundraising stool consisted of annual fund and monthly donors, the major & principal gifts programs, and the foundation and grants programs. This is what we have all known and worked with for a long time. Often times part of these programs sometimes has a specialization for businesses or students/alumni but the principles are the same. The charity uses it’s contacts and fundraising acumen to raise money to support the organization.

With the emergence of new technology and online fundraising we are starting to see a fourth leg to the stool and that is having an avenue for your donors to promote the organization amongst their friends. With peer-to-peer fundraising you are not creating prospecting lists and doing donor acquisition. You are training your strongest supporters in how to fundraise. I made the mistake thinking it would be so great to run a peer-to-peer program to make new contacts that you could send a mailing to. And Sarah and Shane reminded me. The success of peer-to-peer fundraising is that friends are asking friends. If you take that away you lose what makes you successful.

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